Nov 16, 2016

A Day

This is the day that the Lord has made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it.
                                                                                --Psalm 118:24

There's the way I'd like for my day to go and there's the way that my day usually goes. It often feels like there's no such thing as a typical day, but the truth is there are consistent patterns to my day.  They are just not patterns I've consciously chosen or patterns I'm happy with.  This more, often than not, is what a day looks like for me.

  • Wake up too late.  Ideally, I need to get up by 4:30 A.M., because the only real time I have to get non-teaching work done is in the very early morning. Ideally, I'd be up by 4:30 to have devotions, then work from 5 6 A.M. Then from 6 to 6:30 get the kids up and ready for school. Then 6:30 to 7:00 to get the car loaded up and the kids out the door (Yes, it really can take up to 30 minutes just to do that--especially in the winter).  Ideally, I'd arrive at school early enough to get a few things done in the classroom before latchkey starts. The few times I've actually achieved this, the results have been fantastic. But typically, I get a late start (see the end of this entry to find out why).

  • Here's how it usually goes.  Wake up around 5:30 or 6, get dressed and ready for the day.  Have a rushed devotion (a quick reading from Isaiah or 2 Samuel and/or the Jesus Calling devotional).  Look at the sink piled high with dishes and despair that I don't have time to do them unless I commit to being really late for latchkey.  6:30, wake up the boys.  Elijah dresses himself, while I dress Ezra while he remains in bed asleep (I can dress him completely including shoes without him waking up).  Load the car, carry Ezra down and put him in his car seat, while Elijah scrambles to bring a dozen toys with him in the car along with his busted-up but still working iPad.  Pull out of the parking lot of our apartment complex around 7:00 A.M. or shortly after.

This was today at 6:50 A.M.  He's out like a light

Four minutes later, all dressed and still in bed

Ready to go and still sleeping.

  • Latchkey.  Arrive around 7:30 or shortly after.  Drop Ezra and Elijah at the pre-school room.  Go park the car at the school and walk back across the parking lot to the church where Ezra goes to pre-school and I run the morning latchkey program.  Bemoan that I can't honestly put down 7:30 on my timesheet, because it took me 5 minutes to park the car and walk back.  Pick up latchkey kids (including Elijah) from the pre-school room and walk down to gym.  Watch the kids and try to grade a few papers at the same time.  Ms. Vonna serves a delicious piping hot breakfast to all the latchkey kids and me.  At 8:22, exactly I call the latchkey kids to line up to walk over to the school
Walking across the parking lot from the school to the church. I was 30 minutes late today thanks to my oldest son feeling a 25 minute call of nature right when we were about to head out the door.

  • Morning routine, worship, HK. 8:30 to 8:45, I enter my classroom, open the blinds to all the windows, take the chairs down from the tops of the desks, and greet my students cheerfully as they walk in.  At exactly 8:42 remind students its time to turn in their electronic devices.  At exactly 8:44 give my students the 1 minute warning that it's time to wrap up conversations, take a seat, and make sure their desks are clear.  At exactly 8:45, worship begins led by my student worship team while I take attendance.  At 8:55, it's HK time (Housekeeping) where I give morning announcements and my student "administrative assistant" takes the lunch count.

On entering my classroom

About 15 minutes later, as worship is starting

  • Morning classes: 9:00 or shortly after until 12:45 or a little later than that.  I will typically see two classes each morning.  One class will have a "long day"--they are with me from 9 to 12, the other has a short day from 12:05 to lunch.  Every class begins with boardwork--two to five math problems that reflect the math objectives we are either currently working on or will soon be working on.  The boardwork is probably the single most important thing I do every day.   It's how I know how well the students are learning the content, how I determine what I need to teach and to who, how I pre-assess students to see what they already know.  I go over the boardwork answers with the students as soon as they finish the problems. After that it's meeting with students in small groups, tailoring instructions and assignments to the needs of the students.  Math takes up most of the time, but I also do social studies with the group that has the "long day."  Social studies might be grading homework from the day before, a short lecture (I try not to talk from the front for more than 20  minutes at a stretch, ever), maybe a video, or "work time." For the "long day" group there will also be a 20 minute recess period somewhere in the morning.  Most days for a good portion of the long class period, the Title 1 Tutors take groups of students out of the classroom to work with them, and then I can't do any whole group activities without those students being left out.

Today's boardwork for 7th/8th Grade Math

  • Lunch: Between 12:45 and 1 until 1:20 or 1:25.  Basically, I go to lunch whenever the lunch lady comes to watch my class so I can get a break. She is often late, but I don't mind.  I'm just glad she's there everyday.  I work, make copies--there's usually a checklist of things to do during lunch. Most days I don't bring my own lunch, but eat whatever is leftover from the hot lunch served to the students. I usually have 10 minutes or less to eat and often take my lunch back to class. My colleagues Ms. Desha and Mrs. Kulemeka are also in our tiny little "lounge"/copy room and it's nice to connect with my team for a short bit in the middle of the day.  I bemoan all the stuff I meant to get done during lunch but couldn't get to.  I've never had a lunch period in my career as a teacher that hasn't felt rushed.

A working lunch. . . as usual

  • Afternoon Class:  My third class I have from 1:30 to 3:25.  Usually we'll start the period with a short after lunch recess, which I keep meticulous time on the stopwatch on my phone.  It's exactly 20 minutes from "seat to seat"--from the time the students leave their seats to line up until they are seated again and ready for class.  How much time the students spend of that recess getting quiet in line before we go out and coming in from recess after that "one last basket" or "one last pass of the football" is up to the kids.  I monitor the time it takes them to come in and use that to determine when I call them in the next day.   Once the recess is over, the afternoon runs pretty much like the morning long period, with the boardwork, small group teaching etc and split 70/30 between Math and Social Studies.

  • Dismissal:3:25 P.M. My homeroom students come into the classroom. I remind them repeatedly that their's no talking during this time (because they move a LOT slower when they talk), and occasionally write some names down because that's the only way they will actually not talk and focus on getting ready to go home.  At 3:35 P.M. the kids sit down in their desks, presumably packed and ready to go and I go over end of day announcements and homework reminders.  Then the 8th grade class pastor offers prayer, and we wait for the latchkey, car riders and buses to be called.  Usually by 4 the kids are all gone.

  • After School Special: My after school schedule varies from day to day. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, I usually leave right after school, though by the time I gather my stuff, get Elijah to gather his things which he's usually scattered around my classroom within minutes of arriving, and pick up Ezra from pre-school, it's usually around 4:30.  On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays I stay at the school longer and Barbara picks up the boys. On Monday, I work until 5:30 and then leave for drama practice at Worthington SDA Church.  On Tuesdays we have staff meetings, and Friday is my "work" day when I usually try to get my lesson plans done.

Today's after school special was a staff meeting

  • Evening Rush:  This is part of our day is the key to everything else and it almost never goes according to plan. The goal is that the kids eat by 5:30,Barbara bathes them at 6 while I clean up the kitchen and pick up the house, we have family worship at 6:30, and from 6:45 to 7:15 time I have Time Together with the boys (Time Together is when I spend time with the boys, usually about 15 minutes each. With Ezra, I might color, do a puzzle, or play with Ezra's Hot Wheels collection.  With Elijah it's usually playing some sort of My Little Pony storyline with his ponies).  From 7:15 to 7:45 or 8, is supposed to be work time. Then I have an hour to read and relax, shower, and spend time with Barbara going to bed by 9.

Heading home

  • The reality is that most days it seems there's either something going on that causes one or all of us to come home past six..  And on the uncommon days when we do all get home in a timely fashion, the evening tends to grind to a halt somewhere in the process.  Maybe supper takes a long time to make, and we end up not eating until 6:30.  Maybe Barbara gets a phone call from her mom and they end up talking for awhile, while the kids get on their tablets (which their not supposed to do after supper) and we don't get started on baths until after 7.  Sometimes we just do a bath skip, or skip worship or skip Time Together (which is always a huge disappointment to the boys).  These adjustments don't really seem to matter.  The kids still end up going to bed around 8 or later, and as a result our post-boys-bedtime schedule gets truncated also.  At shortly after 8 when the boys are in their room (but not yet asleep, and often calling out for drinks of water or coming out of the room on one pretext or another--they don't usually fall asleep until after 9), I'm typically faced with tough choices. Work is not on the agenda. I'm still hoping that I can get to bed at decent time and get up early to do school work I haven't had time to do.  But there are things that need doing. Do I fold the laundry so we're not digging through the laundry basket trying to find a matching pair of socks?  Do I work on the budget so we don't overspend?  Do I try to get the kitchen in some semblance of order?  .  I can only choose one and the others won't get done.  It's usually after 9 by the time I'm able to shower, relax, and talk with Barbara a bit for bed.  I almost never get around to reading.  For me it's usually not until sometime after 10, usually by 11 that I go to sleep.  Which is why the next morning, I get up later than I want.  And it all begins again.

Another late night. It's 9:30 and Elijah still isn't in bed. He's finishing up a diorama project for his science class.

As you can see certain vital tasks are usually left by the wayside.  Working on grades doesn't often happen, so it's easy for me to fall far behind in my grading.  Keeping the house picked up and the dishes done gets dropped as well, so most of the time our place looks like a bomb went off. I'm embarrassed to even post pictures!

I usually begin the day feeling behind before I begin and end the day feeling like there's so much left undone.  And yet. . .taken together, I don't feel bad about my life. When I think back on the last year, the last month, the last week, even yesterday, I don't feel bad or depressed about my hectic days. My memories are good, and I feel at peace with the work I've done. The individual trees are ugly and uncomfortable, but taken together, the forest is beautiful.

It makes me think that maybe I should make my peace with what the day brings in the moment.  Perhaps it's possible to rejoice and be glad in the day He's given me, even if it's a day short on sleep and long on unfinished tasks and dirty dishes.

It's funny how often I hear this song on the way to work, when I'm living the very things described in the lyrics ( though I'm partial a 64 oz sweet tea from McDonalds to get me through the day rather than  my "third cup of joe")

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